BAR third driver Anthony Davidson topped the times in the first Friday practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix, his best of 1:35.369 not far off the predicted lap time of 1:34. Ralf Schumacher proved he'd lost none of his pace by taking second...
BAR third driver Anthony Davidson topped the times in the first Friday practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix, his best of 1:35.369 not far off the predicted lap time of 1:34. Ralf Schumacher proved he'd lost none of his pace by taking second for Williams, just eight hundredths behind. His teammate Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top three.
The track and air temperature was in the mid twenties as the cars came out for installation laps. After 15 minutes of familiarization, the drivers started making an impression on the time sheet. Toyota third driver Ryan Briscoe clocked 1:41.097 on his first effort.
Jordan's new third driver Robert Doornbos -- replacing Timo Glock who has been promoted to a race seat -- was initially over seven seconds off as he got used to the cirucit and the car, then closed to gap to five seconds from Briscoe. The Toyota man bought his time down to 1:39.438 and Jaguar No.3 Bj?rn Wirdheim took over second, four seconds off.
Davidson, with his car sporting new blue livery for this weekend, was next to the top, 1:38.343, as the laps crept down towards the expected time zone. Briscoe closed to within eight tenths then Davidson widened the gap to over a second, posting 1:38.014. Minardi's Bas Leinders completed the flock of third drivers on track.
Jacques Villeneuve made his debut for Renault in eighth and Ralf's first race weekend foray since Indianapolis was seven tenths off Davidson for second. Jordan's Glock slotted into fifth and the Minardi duo of Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner made it nine on the time sheet.
The track temperature climbed into the thirties after half an hour. Rubens Barrichello was the first Ferrari out, fourth, and Villenueve moved up to fifth. Michael Schumacher claimed the top spot on his first lap out, 1:37.300, but was immediately displaced by Barrichello's 1:36.660. Schumacher was shuffled down another place by Montoya.
Sauber's Felipe Massa had taken second behind Michael but was also shuffled down, the Brazilian settling for fourth. Fernando Alonso put his Renault sixth on his first timed effort and Jordan's Nick Heidfeld made 10th. At the top, Montoya was three tenths off Barrrichello and Michael six tenths from his teammate.
Christian Klien clocked 13th for Jaguar, while Alonso and Villeneuve improved their times but held station. Ricardo Zonta took ninth behind teammate Briscoe but was immediately demoted by Olivier Panis, to make up the trio of Toyotas. Klien improved to 12th and the three Jordans lined up behind him in formation.
Panis moved up to sixth and Davidson removed Barrichello from the top with a 1:36.199, four tenths ahead. Briscoe improved to seventh and Alonso to fifth, then Ralf took fourth to move them down again. Jenson Button was the first of the BAR race drivers and managed 10th, which left only teammate Takuma Sato, Jaguar's Mark Webber and the McLarens to set a time.
Button then improved to seventh and the second Sauber of Giancarlo Fisichella to 11th. Sato posted 10th on his first effort and Fisichella shot up to third fastest on his next attempt. Webber clocked a lowly 20th and Glock had a good lap for 14th. Webber took the position off him and Zonta moved up to 11th.
Davidson improved his top time to 1:35.369 and Button consolidated BAR's position with second fastest, although over a second off. Klien improved to 15th and Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard finally put their McLarens on track in 12th and 13th respectively. Raikkonen them climbed to seventh and Bruni had a good effort to put his Minardi 20th ahead of the Jordans and his teammates.
Alonso improved to fourth and Ralf clocked a very fast first sector in the final minutes He followed it up with another but just lost out in the last, posting second with just an eight hundredth deficit to Davidson. Villeneuve improved to 11th after being moved down the list and Montoya to third. Briscoe put in a last gasp flyer to take fourth but was immediately demoted by Massa.
At the end of the session Davidson remained top, with only Ralf, Montoya and Massa within a second. As usual there's not many conclusions to be drawn from the first practice of the weekend and even less so today on a new track. Michael ended a lowly 15th after his car came to a halt at the pit exit late in the session. That was the biggest surprise -- a Ferrari having problems!
Sauber put in a good showing with both cars in the top ten -- Massa fourth and Fisichella ninth -- and Ralf certainly hasn't lost any of his pace. Toyota looked quite strong but we can expect a better overall picture this afternoon. Final top eight classification: Davidson, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Massa, Briscoe, Button, Barrichello, Alonso.